Conference: East of West, West of East


Date: 17 – 19 October 2016

Venue: Mandarin Ballroom 1, Level 6, Mandarin Orchard Hotel

Address: 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867



There are barriers between East and West that prevent both sides from understanding each other and developing a constructive dialogue. These barriers do not merely reflect cultural differences. They also express the limits of Eastern and Western ways of thinking and different concepts of change. The Western scientific way of thinking, which is expressed and conceptualized in high precision words often ignores the context in which it is framed and has hit a wall in explaining the real world. So does the Eastern way of thinking that is expressed in words that carry ambiguity and have meaning only within a context, carrying richness in interpretation but being subject to lack of precision.

Both ways of thinking can co-exist in a world with a low population and large resources. But in a crowded and interconnected world, where east and west increasingly move into each other’s resource spaces, a synthesis must be found between both modes of thinking, to make sure that problems facing the whole of humanity can be effectively addressed, and that misunderstandings will not escalate into major conflicts.

Instead of framing interactions into geo-political or military differences between two protagonists, a better dialogue must be shaped! This conference intends to contribute to a basis for such a dialogue by delving into the deeper barriers to communication at the intellectual and cultural levels. In doing so it will focus on the way the dialogue has been and is being shaped by our history, our philosophies, our languages, our food, our religions, our medicine and our technologies. We will revisit our history and our different world views to try to understand our current times, and look into the future, and we intend to deal with hidden connections and silent transformations that today’s geopolitical thinking has ignored or underemphasized.

We have chosen East of West, West of East as the theme for the conference, because in between is where we have to find our way. But we will start by finding our way between China and the US, as the combination of their power and cultural differences poses the biggest threat and opportunity for the world.

Sydney Brenner once remarked: “We cannot change the present, but we can change the future, through the young people”. With that in mind our target audience consists of:

o Talented young leaders from government, industry and academia who may become influential in policy and decision making

o Thought leaders in the world, i.e. people that are regularly consulted by policy makers and decision makers in government, business and academia

The setting of the conference is informal. There will be ample time for the audience and the speakers to discuss and meet.

We warmly invite you to actively take part in it.


[Programme] [Concert Programme] [Photo Gallery]


Videos & Presentation Slides

Welcome and Introduction by Jan Vasbinder
Director, Para Limes, Nanyang Technological University


Day 1 – Rediscovering the Past

Session 1A: Divergence and convergence between Chinese and Western approach to change

Speaker: Andrew Sheng
Distinguished Fellow, Fung Global Institute
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Session 1B: Divergences and convergences in East and West: A global historical perspective

Speaker: Tonio Andrade
Professor of History, Director of East Asian Studies, Emory University
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Session 1C: Eastern and Western conceptions of religion

Speaker: Alan Chan
Dean, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract Presentation


Session 1D: Constraints of language on thinking and behaviour

Speaker: Helena Hong Gao
Director of Bilingual Development Lab, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Panel discussion
Moderator: Aaron Maniam, Director (Industry), Ministry of Trade and Industry

Panelists: Andrew Sheng, Tonio Andrade, Alan Chan & Helena Hong Gao


Day 2 – Understanding the Present

Session 1: Cultural differences as opportunities for collaboration in healthcare and medicine

Speaker: Atsushi Iriki
Head of Laboratory for Symbolic Cognitive Development, RIKEN Brain Science Institute and Visiting Professor, Nanyang Technological University
Biography & Abstract │Presentation 1 & 2


Session 2: Fusion cuisine

Speaker: Georges Halpern
Honorary Professor, Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Session 3: The individual and the community: Managing multiculturalism in Eastern and Western political systems

Speaker: Bilahari Kausikan
Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Biography & Abstract


Session 4: Perspectives on ambiguity

Speaker: Lisa Raphals
Professor, Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, University of California, Riverside
Biography & AbstractPresentation


Panel discussion
Moderator: Andrew Sheng
Panelists: Lisa Raphals, Georges Halpern, Atsushi Iriki, W. Brian Arthur & Teoh Xuan Min


Day 3 – Securing the Future

Session 3: The role of Singapore in bridging East and West

Speaker: Vernie Oliveiro
Senior Assistant Director (Policy Strategy), Ministry of National Development


Speaker: Adrian Kuah
Senior Research Fellow & Head, Case Studies Unit, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore


Panel discussion
Moderator: Aaron Maniam
Panelists: Vernie Oliveiro & Adrian Kuah


Session 4: A museum of the future?

Speaker: Honor Harger
Executive Director, ArtScience Museum


Speaker: Stuart Candy (via skype)
Visiting Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Director, Situation Lab
Fellow, Museum of Tomorrow


Speaker: John Sweeney
Deputy Director, Center for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, East-West University in Chicago


Speaker: Sheila Ronis
Chair and Professor, Department of Management
Director, Center for Complex and Strategic Decisions, Walsh College


Speaker: Cheryl Chung
Deputy Director, Strategic Planning, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore


Panel discussion
Moderator: Aaron Maniam
Panelists: Honor Harger, Stuart Candy, John Sweeney, Sheila Ronis & Cheryl Chung


Closing remarks by Jan Vasbinder & Andrew Sheng